Stroke patients can improve their walking ability by doing arm exercises!

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Health News 

Researchers worked with volunteers who had suffered strokes seven to 17 months prior to the study. They taught them moderate intensity arm cycling exercises, which they did three times a week for 30 minutes over a period of five weeks.

To assess the effect of the exercises, researchers tested the walking abilities, electrical activity, and stretch reflexes in the lower leg and wrist muscles. This was done before the training sessions began, during the study, and after the five weeks.

Walking tests included the following:

  • A six-minute walk where distance covered was measured.
  • A timed 10-meter walk to measure speed.
  • Another test called Timed Up and Go measured the time taken for a seated person to stand up, walk 10 feet, return, and sit again.

Researchers observed that arm exercises helped the volunteers improve their performance in all the walking tests. However, the most improvement (up to 28 percent) was seen in their performance in the Timed Up and Go test. According to researchers, arm cycling training helped to activate the nerve networks that connected their limbs, allowing for better coordination. When the arm nerves were activated and adapted, the spinal cord function improved, which improved the functioning of the legs.

Muscle tests revealed that there were no major changes in the grip strength of participants. However, their muscles were more relaxed after they completed the arm exercises.

The experiment proved that arm exercises could be included in stroke rehabilitation to improve post-stroke leg function.

Other exercises to improve walking after stroke

Experts recommend several stroke recovery exercises that can help to improve gait (the manner of walking). These include foot exercises, leg exercises, and balance and core work.

Foot exercises can help improve the ability of stroke survivors to walk. They’d be better able to strike the ground with their heels, follow through, and use the toes to push the foot off the ground. Sample exercises that can improve these functions include heel raises, assisted toe raises, and ankle dorsiflexion with the help of the unaffected hand. Each of these should be repeated 10 times.

Leg exercises are essential to improve leg movement. They include knee extensions and seated marching, where the patient is advised to raise the affected leg to the chest and place it back while being seated. To make them more challenging, patients can pause for a second or two when the leg is above the floor.

Core training includes toe taps and knee-to-chest exercises that are done in a lying-down position. These exercises help to strengthen and engage the core muscles while walking to improve gait.

Flamingo stands (standing on one leg for 30 seconds and repeating with the other leg) and side leg raises (about 45 degrees to each side) help to improve balance.

Leg exercises, core training, and balancing exercises require 20 repetitions (10 for each leg) to be effective.

Stroke recovery is a long process that involves stroke rehabilitation through exercises to improve walking. Toe exercises, leg exercises, core training, and balancing exercises help to strengthen the muscles and improve their movement. These are typical stroke recovery exercises as they help to improve gait. However, due to lack of coordination and damage to nerves, complete recovery in walking ability is not possible unless the nerve connections that help to coordinate the movements function better. The latest research proves that this can be achieved through moderate intensity arm cycling exercises.

 

World Stroke Day is October 29th

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by Grace H.

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage.

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit www.strokeassociation.org.